Introduction. Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems are an increasingly important feature of the national healthcare system . However, little research has investigated the impact this will have on medical students' learning. As part of an innovative technology platform for a new masters level program in medicine, we are developing a student-centred EHR system for clinical education. A prototype was trialed with medical students over several weeks during 2010. This paper reports on the findings of the trial, which had the overall aim of assisting our understanding of how trainee doctors might use an EHR system for learning and communication in a clinical setting.
Background. In primary care and hospital settings, EHR systems offer potential benefits to medical students' learning: Longitudinal tracking of clinical progress towards established learning objectives ; Capacity to search across a substantial body of records ; Integration with online medical databases ; Development of expertise in creating, accessing and managing high quality EHRs . While concerns have been raised that EHR systems may alter the interaction between teachers and students , and may negatively influence physician-patient communication , there is general consensus that the EHR is changing the current practice environment and teaching practice needs to respond.
Methods. Final year medical students on clinical placement at a large university teaching hospital were recruited for the trial. Following a four-week period of use, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 10 participants. Audio-recorded interviews were transcribed and data analysed for emerging themes. Study participants were also surveyed about the importance of EHR systems in general, their familiarity with them, and general perceptions of sharing patient records.
Conclusions. Medical students in this pilot study identified a number of educational, practical and administrative advantages that the student-centred EHR system offered over their existing ad-hoc procedures for recording patient encounters. Findings from this preliminary study point to the need to introduce and instruct students' on the use of EHR systems from their earliest clinical encounters, and to closely integrate learning activities based on the EHR system with established learning objectives. Further research is required to evaluate the impact of student-centred EHR systems on learning outcomes.